Rose wasn’t even entirely inside the house when Martha grabbed her hand and said, “Let me see it!”
“Doctor, you didn’t even tell us you were going to propose!” Sarah Jane chided him.
“And isn’t it all a bit fast?” Francine asked, eying him warily.
At that Rose laughed. “Well, we’ve known each other since I was 19, and I’m 30 now, so I don’t think fast is the right word for it.”
“Besides, we’ve properly been a couple for over five years now,” the Doctor replied. “And I couldn’t have told any of you because then you would have acted strange all night and Rose would have figured it out!”
“Is that your way of saying you didn’t even think about letting us in on the surprise?” Jack asked, raising a brow skeptically.
The Doctor snorted and everyone in the room laughed because they all knew the Doctor well enough to know that Jack was right. Rose sat down on the couch to tell everyone the proposal story, and everyone gathered round to look at the ring.
The Doctor stood back as he tried to think of the best way to ask Rose the other question he had in mind.
“Nothing,” he lied. Rose raised an eyebrow and he backtracked, “Okay, fine, I’m up to something, but it’s a surprise. Just go get dressed. The Old Girl knows what I’m planning, and she’ll help you pick something out.”
“I thought we were gonna start travelling again?”
“We are,” the Doctor replied. “But there’s something we need to talk about first, and there’s one other thing I want to do before we get back out there.”
“Okay,” Rose replied, turning around and walking back toward the wardrobe room without protest.
The Doctor let out a sigh of relief. He was nervous enough as it was, he didn’t really think he could go through with his plan if Rose didn’t want to be there. As he went over his speech for the millionth time in his head, Rose came back into the room and interrupted his thoughts by clearing her throat. The Doctor’s first coherent thought after seeing her was that the TARDIS had really outdone herself. Rose was dressed in a tightfitting silver dress that shimmered a deep blue when she moved. Her hair was pulled up, with a few wispy curls framing her face. Her only jewelry was her white-point star necklace and her engagement ring.
“So, where are we going?” she asked, strolling down to the console.
“Um, well,” the Doctor started, trying to restart his brain. “I thought since we had just celebrated Christmas, we should also celebrate New Year’s.”
“Oh!” Rose gasped. “We’re getting ready to start a new chapter of our lives, what with getting back to travelling and all, so why not just make it a new year!”
“Exactly,” the Doctor smiled.
“So, when and where are we celebrating?” she asked.
“There’s a little planet called Taifeach that is throwing a huge party in the year 3500,” the Doctor explained.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Rose asked as she threw the materialization lever. As soon as they had landed, she threw open the doors, and the Doctor followed her out into the party.
“I’ll go get us some drinks,” the Doctor said as Rose stood by the window, looking out at the purple mountains of Taifeach.
A few minutes later, he came back, and Rose took hers gladly. “It’s so beautiful, Doctor. Thank you.”
“Of course,” he smiled, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“But Doctor,” she said, pulling back and putting a hand on his arm. “What’s up? You’ve been acting weird all day, and you also said that there was something we needed to talk about.”
“Yes, well, you see,” he started, his entire speech flooding out of his head as he actually looked at Rose.
She sighed and leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on his lips. “Doctor, it’s just me, yeah? You know you can tell me anything.”
Looking into her eyes, the Doctor realized that she really meant that, so he decided to just get it over with and ask her. “Rose, you know I’m telepathic, right?”
“Of course,” she replied, furrowing her brow.
“Well, because Time Lords were telepathic, we had a different kind of marriage. We called it bonding, and basically it meant that the couple linked their minds. It allowed them to feel each other’s emotions and communicate telepathically, among other things.”
“So you want to bond with me?” Rose asked.
“Well, yes, if you want to,” the Doctor said quickly. “And technically there are two types of marriage bonds. The full marriage bond had gone out of fashion on Gallifrey long before I was born. It couldn’t ever be broken, and it was much more intense and personal than a temporary bond, so political marriages never really used them, and the last love-match on Gallifrey happened a few centuries before I was born. So if you wanted—”
“I’d love to bond with you,” Rose grinned, cutting him off before his rambling got out of hand.
“Really?” he asked, a grin stretching across his face.
“Really,” she smiled. “But tell me more about the type of bonds.”
“Well, the temporary bond started out as a type of engagement,” he explained. “That was the original purpose. You’re still aware of your bond mate and can feel their emotions all the time, but to communicate telepathically, you have to be in the same room. The connection isn’t as deep or intense. It links you so that other telepathic beings are aware that you are bonded to someone, but it isn’t as serious as a full bond.”
“What makes a full bond so serious?” Rose asked.
“A full bond is permanent. There’s no hiding or secrets over one. You can’t lie to your bondmate. They’d know immediately. And distance doesn’t matter when it comes to telepathically communicating. But the big thing is if one bondmate dies.”
“What happens if one bondmate dies?” Rose asked.
“Have you ever heard of someone dying a broken heart?” Rose nodded, so the Doctor continued, “That idea comes from the Time Lords. If one half of a bonded pair dies, the bond breaks, and the pain was said to be so intense that the remaining bondmate goes insane and eventually dies. The longest a fully-bonded Gallifreyan ever made it after the death of a bondmate was three days.”
“What kind of bond do you want?” Rose asked.
“Whichever bond you want,” he replied. “I’ll take whatever you’ll give me.”
“Doctor,” Rose said, taking his hand. “I love you with all my heart, and that’s never gonna change. But you seem hesitant about a full bond, so if you just want a temporary bond—”
“No,” he interrupted. “I’d love a full bond. I just need you to know what you’re getting into. It means forever, and I don’t think I could take it if you one day came to regret it.”
“I’m never gonna regret it because I promised you forever, Doctor,” Rose smiled.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Yeah. But, you said the temporary bond started off like an engagement?” Rose asked.
“Yes, that was the original purpose. So the couple could learn to live with each other before making it permanent,” he explained.
“Well, then we’re already engaged by the customs of my world,” Rose smiled, looking down at her ring. “Let’s get engaged by the customs of yours.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Will you stop being surprised that I love you and want to be with you in any way possible?” Rose laughed.
“Right, of course.”
“And if it would make you feel better, I’ll read up on bonds while we’re engaged. I know I’m not going to change my mind, but at least you’ll be able to calm down and realize I’m going into it fully prepared,” Rose replied.
“How long do you want to be engaged for?” the Doctor asked. “I know humans normally set a date for a wedding, but with us being time travelers…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Rose replied. “The TARDIS and I were talking while I got dressed. She said we need to wait, but that we’ll know when the time is right. There are apparently a few things we’re still missing that we need before our wedding can be perfect.”
“What could we possibly be missing?” the Doctor asked.
Rose shrugged. “I have no idea because the TARDIS was being intentionally vague, but the Old Girl insisted we would just know when the time was right.”
“Well,” he replied, “if it wasn’t for the TARDIS, I wouldn’t have forever with you, so I’m not about to argue with her!”
Rose laughed and kissed him. “Now, about this temporary bond…”
“Right! Okay, the first part of the bond is that I need to tell you my name. Well, my family name. Every Gallifreyan has two names: a family one and a personal one. On Gallifrey, the only people who can know a family name are the members of that family. That’s why the family name is shared during a temporary bond. The personal name is only shared as a part of the full marriage bond. You will be the only person, other than myself, to ever know that name. You can’t ever tell anyone,” The Doctor explained.
“Okay,” Rose nodded. The Doctor leaned forward and whispered a Gallifreyan phrase into her ear. She had never heard it before, but somehow she knew exactly what it meant. “That’s beautiful, Doctor.”
The Doctor just nodded and continued, “Now, place your fingers on my temple, and I’ll do the same to you. I’m going to have to have to go into your mind. I should be able to set up the temporary bond on my own, but we’ll need to work on your telepathy before we set up the full bond because that is much more complicated and requires both parties to be skilled telepaths.”
Rose placed her fingers on his temple, and he mirrored the action. Rose closed her eyes when she felt something brush against her mind. It didn’t feel like the TARDIS. The TARDIS’s thoughts masqueraded as her own, but this felt like the Doctor. That was the only way Rose could describe it. She wasn’t entirely sure what the Doctor was doing, but the longer he was doing it, the more clear it became. Rose could actually hear the Doctor’s voice as he said something in Gallifreyan in her mind, but it sounded distant. She followed the sound of his voice until it sounded like he was standing right next to her. Before she could begin to think about what the Doctor was saying, she felt a sharp prick in her mind and her eyes flew open.
“Sorry about that,” the Doctor said. “I forgot to warn you about the bond snapping into place.”
“That’s okay,” Rose said.
“Try saying it in your head, love,” the Doctor said, and that was when Rose realized he wasn’t moving his mouth. “All you have to do is think about telling me something, and I should be able to hear it. It’s a bit hard to explain how to communicate telepathically because I’ve always known how to. It’s like trying to explain how breathe. You know how to do it, but any explanation of it sounds awkward and incomplete.”
“Like this?” Rose asked him in her head.
“Exactly!” he gasped, shocked at the way she did it perfectly on her first try.
“Have you seriously forgotten that I can talk to the TARDIS like this?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “I might talk to her out loud sometimes, just because it’s more natural to me, but I talk to her like this a lot too.”
“This is how you and the TARDIS talk?” the Doctor asked. Even after five years of knowing that Rose and the TARDIS could communicate at levels unheard of in Gallifreyan society, he was still struggling to understand exactly how she did it.
“Sort of,” Rose said. “It’s not exactly the same. Talking to you feels like I’m talking to someone else, but it’s hard to separate the TARDIS’s consciousness from my own.”
“Hmm….” The Doctor said. “I wonder if—”
“Sh!” Rose said, out loud this time. “They’ve started the countdown! It’s almost midnight!”
Sure enough, the Doctor could hear the people around them slowly counting down from twenty. Rose and the Doctor joined in the countdown, then happily took part in the old New Year’s tradition of sharing a kiss at midnight.
“Happy New Year,” the Doctor said to Rose, telepathically so that they didn’t have to break their kiss.
“Happy New Year, Doctor,” Rose replied, her happiness and love echoing across her new bond to the Doctor.